Aging is one of the most common indicators of hearing loss, and let’s face it, try as we may, we can’t avoid aging. You can do some things to look younger but you’re still getting older. But did you realize that hearing loss has also been linked to health issues associated with aging that are treatable, and in some instances, preventable? Let’s have a look at a few examples that may be surprising.
1. Your hearing could be impacted by diabetes
So it’s pretty well established that diabetes is linked to a higher risk of hearing loss. But why would you have an increased risk of experiencing hearing loss if you have diabetes? Science is at somewhat of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide range of health problems, and in particular, can cause physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One idea is that the condition might impact the ears in a similar way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it could also be linked to general health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans highlighted the link between hearing loss and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, individuals who aren’t controlling their blood sugar or alternatively managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. If you are worried that you may be prediabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s essential to talk with a doctor and have your blood sugar examined. And, it’s a good idea to call us if you think your hearing might be compromised.
2. Increased risk of falling associated with hearing loss
Why would your risk of falling go up if you have hearing loss? Although our ears play an important role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this instance, quite literally). Research was carried out on participants who have hearing loss who have recently fallen. The study didn’t go into detail about the cause of the falls but it did speculate that missing important sounds, like a car honking, could be a large part of the cause. But it might also go the other way, if difficulty hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your environment, it could be easy to stumble and fall. The good news here is that treating hearing loss could potentially reduce your risk of having a fall.
3. Protect your hearing by controlling high blood pressure
Numerous studies have shown that hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure may actually speed up age-related hearing loss. This sort of news may make you feel like your blood pressure is actually rising. Even when variables like noise exposure or smoking are taken into account, the link has consistently been seen. (Please don’t smoke.) Gender seems to be the only important variable: The link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger if you’re a man.
Your ears have a very close relation to your circulatory system. Along with the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s principal arteries run right by it. The noise that people hear when they have tinnitus is frequently their own blood pumping due to high blood pressure. That’s why this kind of tinnitus is known as pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. But high blood pressure could also potentially result in physical harm to your ears, that’s the primary theory behind why it would hasten hearing loss. Every beat of your heart will have more force if it’s pumping blood harder. That could possibly harm the smaller blood arteries inside of your ears. Through medical intervention and lifestyle change, blood pressure can be managed. But if you think you’re experiencing hearing loss, even if you feel like you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good idea to speak with us.
4. Cognitive decline and hearing loss
It’s scary stuff, but it’s important to note that while the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well recognized, scientists have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so strongly linked. The most prevalent theory is that people with untreated hearing loss often withdraw from social interaction and become debilitated by lack of stimulation. Another concept is that hearing loss taxes your brain. When your brain is working overtime to process sound, there might not be much brainpower left for things like memory. Playing “brain games” and keeping your social life intact can be very helpful but the number one thing you can do is treat your hearing loss. Social situations will be easier when you can hear clearly and instead of struggling to hear what people are saying, you can focus on the important stuff.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, make an appointment with us right away.